Platinum powerhouse shows mettle
The Kia Sportage’s all-wheel-drive system handled the Pinnacles soft surface with ease.

Let's be honest - Sportage is a bit of a silly title to give a car. What not just call it Sport? Or Sporty?

But while Kia's marketing people may have missed a gear in their brainstorming sessions, their design department didn't.

In a crowded small SUV market, the Sportage has made a name for itself with its sharp looks and it was one of the first to adopt the Korean brand's now-trademark, and super-sharp, front grille.

Certainly, I've always given it a second, and sometimes third, glance when one has passed by.

Now I've got the chance to see if the performance matches the personality - and I'm impressed.

I took a top-of-the-range Sportage Platinum - with an on-road price of $37,990 - north to Greenhead, with a quick stop at the Pinnacles to see those famous limestone formations.

The drive was a dream, the 2.4-litre petrol engine easily answering anything I asked of it and the six-speed automatic as smooth as silk, in contrast to a rival Peugeot 4008 I had driven previously. Also noticeably better in the Sportage was the steering - it bobbed in and out of traffic like a car half its size.

When we reached the Pinnacles I couldn't resist taking it for a spin on the sand between those rocks. Granted, I wasn't allowed to drive fast but the all-wheel-drive system handled the soft surface with ease.

And once we got to our final destination a mate who drives bigger cars and currently owns a LandCruiser was impressed by how this baby SUV held its own on the beach roads.

It's hard not to like the inside either. Especially the ventilated driver's seat, which sends cooling air through the backrest and seat cushion. If only Kia did them for the lounge room.

For some reason, this luxury isn't available to the front passenger. All they get is a seat- warming option, which the driver has too. While there is an injustice to this, especially at this time of year, it was fun to secretly press the warm button on my unassuming wife's seat - then watch her heated reaction.

There is also a lot of chrome and leather inside, which is all very pleasing on the eye, along with a touch screen which houses a superb sat-nav system that even tells you what the speed limit is and a big reversing camera complete with a red danger box to alert you when you are too close to another object.

There's also keyless entry and start, a glowing instrument panel which offers exceptional clarity at night, steering wheel controls, a banging six-speaker stereo and a funky sunglasses holder near the rear-view mirror. There's even the option of a cooled glovebox - again handy in WA.

What isn't very handy in Perth, though, is the panoramic sun roof. The two big windows above the front and rear seats may let in a lot of light but they make the car way too hot in our climate.

But that's the only quibble I can find with the Sportage. And it's easily forgotten when you put your foot down on the large, organ-style accelerator pedal.

Or when you see the eight drink holders, the 60-40 split rear seats and the big boot.

Or when you find yourself admiring the 18-inch alloys, or the cool rows of glowing dots when the headlights are dipped.

Or when you read that it has eight airbags and a five-star ANCAP crash rating.

So the silly-sounding Sportage is a handsome family suburban SUV that will even allow you to have some fun off-road - and, really, that's the name of the game.


  • KIA SPORTAGE *

  • Model * Platinum

  • Price *$37,990

  • Engine *2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol

  • Outputs *130kW/227Nm

  • Transmission * Six-speed automatic

  • Thirst *9.2L/100km

  • Safety *Five stars

The West Australian

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